Monday, February 16, 2009

On being irreplaceable

In times of economic crisis, people worry a lot about being replaceable. Everywhere in the media these days--in blogs and business columns, in opinion pieces and video interviews--corporate pundits and pop psychologists are struggling to explain how we can stand out from the crowd (in a good way) so that our employers will see the need to keep us on.

When Steve Jobs had to take some time off work, the words "No one is indispensable" became both reassuring and terrifying to millions of cogs in a host of corporate machines.

In good times and bad, the only business with a really, truly indispensable and irreplaceable person at its core is the one that runs off an individual creative vision. John Updike was irreplaceable. Picasso was irreplaceable. Eartha Kitt was irreplaceable. So was Yves St. Laurent.

Artists often undervalue their own contributions--probably because for most of us it takes so long to attract the only meaningful measure of our worth, which is money. We should not be discouraged. Some of us may not make a living from our art just yet (in that regard, for us there is no difference between the good times and the bad!), but we cannot be replaced, and we will always be "employed."

We have what everybody wants. We should be happy (and even a bit snooty) about that.